I recently had a conversation with someone about sourdough bread. It all started when I mentioned I was a baker. He told me that there was a bakery near him that sold sourdough, but he didn’t know what it was or what all the fuss was about. I was quite happy to explain as I love talking about baking science.
See, sourdough isn’t a new thing. Despite its recent popularity, sourdough is what all bread used to be back in the day. Before breweries developed the commercial yeast that we now use today, the only kind of yeast we had was wild! Wild yeast is everywhere… in the air, on the walls, etc. – all you need to do is provide it with food, and water to let it grow!
They say Egyptians first discovered how to bake bread – someone left a bowl of a porridge type dish (made of wheat) lying around and discovered it started bubbling. I love the idea of whoever thought “let’s put this in an oven!” And since that day, we have been raising cultures of wild yeast to add air and flavor into our breads.
So, you want to make your own starter? You can go about it two different ways – first you can make one out of just flour and water, or you can use fruit and vegetables! Unwashed fruit contains lots of wild yeast on the surface, plus plenty of sugar inside to feed the yeast culture. Grapes are an obvious choice, but really any fruit and certain vegetables will do (apparently beets work). (more…)
When I used to work in Vancouver, BC, my office was right near Granville Island. Every now and then, when I forgot my lunch, I would wander over to the Granville Public Market to see what took my fancy. One of the stalls I always stopped to admire, was the fresh pasta from Duso’s. The flavour combinations were always inventive, and they would add stripes to their pasta! Ever since seeing them, I have wanted to make my own striped pasta.
A few years back, I was given a pasta roller as a Christmas present. It was a most unexpected gift, as it was from a secret santa exchange, and I didn’t know the person who had my name very well. It was absolutely perfect, as I had been dying to try my hand at making fresh pasta! And once you’ve mastered making plain pasta, striped or coloured pasta isn’t very far off! It’s not any more difficult, but it is time consuming – oh so time consuming…
Making fresh ravioli is only really worth it if you’re going to make unusual flavours. It takes so much time, that’s it’s not worth making regular cheese or spinach pasta. You have to mix together the dough, allow it to rest, make the filling, roll out the dough, fold + roll some more, then fill and cut the ravioli. Honestly, sometimes I’m not sure if I’m a masochist, or just love to cook and bake. It’s up for debate. 😉
To make your pasta striped, you have to mix together both regular dough, as well as coloured. While you could use food colouring, good coloured pasta is made with natural ingredients. Cocoa powder makes brown, beetroot powder for red/pink, spirulina powder for green, tumeric or saffron for yellow, and tomato paste for orange. All of those ingredients have intense enough colours, so you only need a little bit. It means that they won’t alter the flavour of your pasta considerably. (But remember, the colour of the pasta will lighten when you boil them.)
As I was making beetroot filled pasta, I opted to add beetroot powder to 1/4 of the dough recipe, substituting for 5-10g of the flour. It gave it a lovely bright fuschia colour. You’ll need to experiment to see how much colour ingredient you need to get your desired shade.
Okay, now the instructions for how to make fresh ravioli (using a roller). It’s a bit of a long explanation, but stay with me! If you already know how, and just want the recipe for the filling, scroll to the bottom! (more…)
When I was studying pastry + bread making in Vancouver, our teachers introduced us to a dessert I had never heard of – the posset. Originally a thickened drink waaaay back in the day (think Shakespear), it has evolved into a set custard-like dessert which has the consistency of sour cream. Possets require only 3 ingredients, which is why they are the simplest “custards” you can make. (I use quotations on custard, as the term generally means something that has been set with eggs.) No need to worry about curdling eggs with this custard! Possets need no eggs, no gelatine, no flour… the only thing that they require to set into a velvet consistency, is acid.
I could get all science-y about it, but it’s similar to how yogurt is made. Except, instead of having bacteria eating the sugars (lactose) and producing lactic acid, you add the acid yourself! The acid lowers the ph of the cream, which changes the structure of the protein strands, allowing them to hold more water. Originally, I was taught that possets require citrus to set (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit…), but there are other fruits with a similar ph to citrus.
My original recipe idea, was to make an orange posset, flavoured with pomegranate (mostly because I just wanted the pink/peach colour). But as I was making the first batch I was having a hard time. Possets need the citric acid to set, so I couldn’t substitute pomegranate juice for orange juice. I could only add a tablespoon or so for flavour. Now, pomegranate isn’t as strong a taste as the orange, so it wasn’t coming through. Then, as I was tasting things, I wondered to myself if the bitter pomegranate juice might be acidic? Turns out, pomegranate has a lower ph than oranges, and is closer to that of lemons! That made me realize you could use pomegranate juice all on its own!
So I went back to the store for more cream, and set about making three different possets – one solely orange, one 50/50 orange and pomegranate, and one solely pomegranate. I was curious about the different colours and flavours, and couldn’t settle on just one. The result? Well, the pomegranate one didn’t really taste of pomegranate – it’s too delicate a flavour. I used pomegranate juice though, so maybe freshly squeezed would come through? With the 50/50 one you couldn’t really taste the pomegranate, as again, it’s too delicate. The orange one was the best, as the flavour really cuts through the cream. (more…)
Well, it’s officially 2018! And why not start the new year with some good old fashioned doughnuts? My grandma always called these New Years Küken (or “cookies”) but you may also know them as Portzelky. They are a German Mennonite favorite, always made for New Year’s day.
When I was a kid, these weren’t my favorite thing because they contained a dreaded ingredient – raisins. Not sure why, but I have always disliked raisins, especially in baked goods. You know when you pick up a cookie, thinking it’s chocolate chip, only to eat a raisin?! Worst thing ever… I can remember eating raisins out of those little red boxes as a child, and enjoying it. But now, despite my best efforts to get used to those shriveled little pockets of sadness… I just don’t like ’em.
Now that I am making my own New Year’s cookies, I can use whatever fruit I want! (Eat that, raisins!) I have always wanted to experiment with these little dougnuts, and decided to try three different flavors this year. (more…)
If you’re anything like me, then the idea of making every component of Christmas dinner, on the day, is stressful. I’m a huge fan of making as many things as possible the day before. That way, I can actually enjoy the day itself! One of those things that always seems to add to last minute stress is gravy. Because you’re waiting for the pan drippings to start, you’re often trying to finish the gravy just when everything else is needing mashing/plating/mixing/etc.
That’s why Richard and I are such huge fans of this recipe from Jamie Oliver! It might take hours to make, but gives you a gravy that you can make the day before, or even the week before and freeze. (When I say it takes hours, most of that time is spent in the oven, or simmering on the stove.) Then, on the big day, you simply add in your drippings, heat, and serve! I also like that it allows you to perfect the gravy, rather than rushing it, as most people agree gravy is very important!
I forgot to take a photo of the actual gravy once it was done, but I think we all know what gravy looks like 😉 Also, I used parchment paper in the tray, but regretted it later, as you kind of want the stuff to burn/brown on the bottom of the tray.
So if you’ve got a bit of time today or tomorrow, why not save yourself the hassle, and make your gravy ahead of time?
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Roughly chop the bacon and set aside.
Peel the onions, wash the carrots and celery, and roughly chop all vegetables.
Put the vegetables, bacon, bay leaves, sage, and rosemary into a roasting tray,
Break the chicken wings open, and bash with a rolling pin to help release extra flavour. Place in the tray.
Drizzle everything with oil, season with salt + pepper, and toss. Cook for 1 hour, or until vegetables are tender.
Remove the tray from the oven and transfer to a low heat on the stove. Really grind and mash everything with a potato masher, scraping up all the goodness from the base of the tray (the longer you let it fry, the darker your gravy will be).
Add the sherry/port (opt.) now and allow to simmer for a few minutes.
Gradually stir in the flour, then pour in 2 litres of boiling water. Simmer for 30+ minutes, or until thickened and reduced, stirring occasionally.
When the gravy is the consistency you like, pour it through a coarse sieve into a large bowl, squeezing out as much liquid as you can with the back of a spoon.
Taste and season, cool to room temperature, then pour into containers or bags and pop into the fridge or freezer, ready to finish off on the day.
When your turkey is ready and resting, skim away most of the fat and pour your gravy into the tray with the rest of the turkey juices.
Bring to the boil on the stove, and scrape up all those sticky bits from the base. Have a taste, and season if necessary.
One of the things that I miss most about Christmas in Canada is eggnog! Or better yet, eggnog lattes (insert heart eyes here). Starbucks in the UK only uses an ‘eggnog syrup’ not actual eggnog, which is not at all the same taste. Bleh. The first time I ordered one, I thought it tasted funny, but thought eggnog here was just sweeter or something.
So this year, after having a taste of proper eggnog back in Canada, I decided to make my own. The nice thing about homemade eggnog is that you can control the calories and spices. Use full fat milk, cream, or skim… whatever your heart desires! Add rum, or no rum: star anise, cloves, or just nutmeg. I like mine with lots of spice and a hint of rum; which also happens to be spiced!
Most recipes I found online, said to use three parts whole milk, to one part cream. I wanted to make mine a bit healthier, and used only whole milk, but it’s not as thick as normal eggnog. Use single, double, half + half… whatever your heart desires! I also found recipes that said to whip the egg whites separately, and then add in just before serving. I imagine this would give it a bit of a frothier/thicker texture, but it felt like wasted effort for me.
The flavour will get stronger if you leave it overnight, so long as you keep the spices in. And if you want a festive punch, rather than just classic egg nog, add some 7-Up (or similar) and scoops of vanilla ice cream before serving. Perfection! (more…)
So one of the things that I really wanted to plant in our allotment, was cucamelons. I’m not even that big of a fan of cucumbers, but these just looked so cute! And of course, I love pickles, so growing cucamelons just pretty much means turning them into cucamelon pickles!
Here in the UK, I find pickles to be a bit sweet for my North American tastes. I like my pickles mostly tangy garlicky-dill rather than sweet, so I thought I should just make my own! My mom used to always buy those “yum-yum” pickles and I used to refer to them as “yuck-yuck”…
I used this recipe from The Kitchn as inspiration. I only made enough for two half pint jars, as that was the emount of cucamelons that I had. Just adjust the recipe up for the amount you need. As mentioned in the original recipe, I trimmed the blossom end of the cucamelons to prevent them from softening. (more…)
I have always been a fan of strange things. When I was a child, I wanted nothing more than to have red hair and green eyes, because they were uncommon and would make me look unique (brown + brown = boring to little Amy). When my mom would take me to the grocery store, I would ask her to buy all of the strangest fruits. Passionfruit, grenadilla, star fruit, dragon fruit, prickly pear… you name it, I wanted to try it! And for my birthday, I didn’t want any old cake, I always wanted pavlova!
Unlike nowadays, pavlova wasn’t as common when I was a kid in Canada. My siblings always opted for things like cheesecake or chocolate torte, but I wasn’t such a fan of those. Of course, my mom made a version almost more like a traditional cake, with whipped cream icing all around, but it was pavlova all the same. Ever since then, I have been a huge fan of simple meringue bases topped with all kinds of fun and colourful fruits.
Pavlova is a fantastic dessert because you can top it with anything! In this instance, I chose to pick some tropical fruits that we had in the house, and one of my favorite weird ones – passionfruit. For the passionfruit, I chose to make it into a sauce with some coconut water. I had a coconut that I wanted to turn into toasted coconut flakes (for decoration) and decided not to waste the water. It’s not necessary though, so feel free to just use the passionfruit as is if you want.
The next time I make a pavlova, I’m going to try using an italian meringue, rather than a classic french meringue. I haven’t made a french meringue in a while, and kept over-whipping it (I’m just that strong). The nice thing about italian meringue is that the egg whites cook in the simple syrup as you whip it, making it the most stable meringue you can make. Finally, I just decided to add some acid to the mixture in order to make it more stable.
Fancy chefs whip their egg whites in copper bowls, as they create a chemical reaction that helps to prevent over-whipping. You can make a similar reaction by adding a bit of lemon juice to the egg whites, or cream of tartar. For this recipe, I added cream of tartar, but feel free to substitute a couple teapsoons of lemon juice if that’s what you have on hand. Just add the cream of tarter to a couple tablespoons of the sugar, and mix together. Add that sugar first while whipping.
The other great thing about pavlova, is that it looks pretty no matter how perfect the meringue. Even if there are cracks in the meringue, it still looks pretty. And, if you break the meringue accidentally, you can still eat it! Just call it Eton Mess, and mix all the same stuff together in a layered trifle type dessert. Although, according to Richard it’s not an Eton mess if there are fruits other than strawberries and raspberries in it. He’s British.
So whether you serve it broken up, as one large meringue, or as the individual ones here, give pavlova a try! Who doesn’t like fresh fruit, cream, and copious amounts of sugar?
First, make the pavlovas. Preheat the oven to 100 degrees Celsius and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix together the cream of tartar with a couple tablespoons of the 300g of caster sugar. Whip the egg whites until foamy, and soft peaks are beginning to form.
Sprinkle over the sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, beginning with the cream of tartar sugar. Continue to whip the egg whites and sugar until stiff, glossy peaks form. Be careful not to overwhip.
Gently fold in the coconut and divide into four mounds on the parchment paper. Using a spoon, create little depressions in each meringue for the cream.
Bake in the peheated oven for 1 hour, 25 minutes. Turn off the oven, and allow to cool to room temperature.
To make the passionfruit sauce, stir together the 150g sugar and coconut water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, and stir in the passionfruit seeds.
Shortly before you're ready to serve, whip the cream to medium peaks and mound on the meringue shells. Add the mango cubes on top, the coconut flakes (if using), and the passionfruit sauce.
It’s beginning to feel like fall over here, despite the fact that it’s still technically summer. The weather here in London definitely hasn’t received that memo 😉 The chill in the air has got me craving soups, casseroles, and all things cozy. But, as it’s still summer, I thought I would compromise with this summer borscht!
My grandma used to make two kinds of borscht, summer and winter. And my favorite was always summer, hands down. I loved the fresh dill flavor, slight tang from the sour cream, and the salty ham. And not only does this meal taste good, but it looks kind of fun too! Depending on how much beetroot you add, or how bright their colour, it can turn out almost pepto-bismol pink!
As I mentioned in the lemon tart recipe post, one of my favorite cookbooks is by the Bouchon Bakery. It contains a recipe for a plum tart that uses a wonderful pâte sucrée crust, and frangipane filling. I made it before as a thank you for some plums I was gifted, and have loved the combination ever since. Frangipane works well as a base for almost any fruit, especially stone fruit. So when we were given a load of damson a week ago, it was the first recipe I wanted to try.
Now, a word of warning here. Unless you’re a masochist for baking (like me!), I won’t recommend making a damson tart. Instead, use any larger plum, or even nectarines, or peaches. The amount of wedges you need to cut from the tiny damsons is ridiculous, and takes ages. However, if you’re like me, and have more damsons than you can eat (and a lot of free time), why not? (more…)